Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain and one of the most beautiful in the world. In July and August, thousands climb the relatively easy path to the majestic summit of the 3,000-meter peak.
Mount Fuji or Fujisan, often mistakenly referred to as Fujiyama, is the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776 meters. The almost perfectly symmetrical shape of the stratovolcano with its snow-capped summit makes Fuji one of the most beautiful mountains in the world and a favorite subject for international painters, poets and photographers. On a clear day, Mount Fuji can be seen from Tokyo, 100km away.
Mount Fuji is a volcano of the Pacific Ring of Fire and is considered a dormant volcano. Its last eruption occurred in 1708, the risk of another eruption is considered low. The origin of its name is the subject of many theories, but has not been fully clarified to date.
The summit of Mount Fuji is located on Japan’s main island of Honshū, exactly between the two prefectures of Yamanashi and Shizuoka. In its current form, the mountain was formed about 10,000 years ago, its first basic shapes probably formed several hundred thousand years ago.
Sacred mountain of Japan
Graceful Mount Fuji is considered by Shintoism, Japan’s second major religious community after Buddhism, to be one of Japan’s three sacred mountains, along with Tate and Haku. The first ascent of the majestic volcano is said to have been made in the 7th century by an unknown Shinto monk. British diplomat Sir Rutherford Alcock was the first non-Japanese at the summit in 1868. Until the Meiji period, which ended in June 1912 with the death of Emperor Tennōs Mutsuhito, women were not allowed to climb the sacred mountain.
Summit of Mount Fuji
Those days of restriction are thankfully over. Today, Mount Fuji is one of the top 10 sights in Japan. Its symmetrical shape makes it not only magnificent to look at, but also easy to climb. This leads to the fact that especially in July and August, when all routes can be climbed and the huts are open, about 3,000 tourists per day storm the summit.
An ascent from October to May is only advisable with appropriate mountain equipment and experience. The sensitive cold and unpredictable weather at this time have already claimed several lives. The advantage is that you have the snow-covered dream landscape of the graceful mountain pretty much to yourself.
Paths to the summit
The starting point for ascents of Mount Fuji is the Gogōme station, located at 2,300 meters, which can still be reached by bus or car. A little below this station, by the way, is the crash site of a Boeing 707, whose accident in 1966 killed 124 people. From there, four routes lead to the summit, the “Lake Kawaguchi”, the “Subashiri”, the “Gotemba” and the “Fujinomiya”.
The most popular and thus often crowded is the Kawaguchiko route, as its large bus parking lot and spacious cabins offer the best comfort. The Fujinomiya route with its highest last stop comes right after on the popularity scale. The Subashiri and Gotemba routes are popular ways to descend due to their spectacular ash-covered trails.
Another four start already at the base of Mount Fuji, these are Shojiko, Yoshida, Suayama and Murayama and are usually chosen for historical reasons. The Murayama route is considered the oldest path up Mount Fuji, and along the Yoshida route you can see breathtaking nature as well as historic shrines, teahouses and mountain huts. Every now and then you can even see a bear or two. All routes from the foot of Mount Fuji are divided into 10 stations. At the fifth station, the routes from the very bottom are joined by the others. In July and August, the huts above the fifth station are staffed, while the huts below the fifth station are staffed only depending on the number of climbers.
Tip: Even though it’s 40°C in Tokyo during the summer months, temperatures can still drop below zero at the top of Mount Fuji, so dress warmly!
Sunrise on Mount Fuji is considered absolutely stunning. As a result, many climbers spend the night at a hut above 3,000 meters and set out again at night around 2 a.m. to be on the summit in time for “Goraikō,” the “honorable arrival of light.” With proper fitness, the ascent to the summit can be completed in about 5 hours, and the descent in about 3 hours.
Fuji from below
If you don’t want to climb Mount Fuji, but just look at it, the best way to do this is from the train. The route of the Japanese high-speed train Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya, Kyoto or Osaka passes the majestic volcano. 45 minutes after Tokyo is Shin-Fuji Station, ideal location for breathtaking panoramic photos. In the cold months, early morning and evening, the view is clearest. In addition, there are also special attractions to visit in the lower elevations of Mount Fuji, such as the Hakone Hot Springs or the Fuji Five Lakes.